The best books of love poetry that are not all hearts and flowers and mush

Who am I?

When writing my book, it seemed only natural for me to bring poetry into the love story I’d created. I fell in love with poetry in high school, and it has always felt like a more powerful, compact, and intense way of expressing deep emotions. And it’s so much more complex than hearts and flowers, hence my title for this list! I wanted to use a poem that summed up the intensity of a physical encounter between new lovers. And Rilke was perfect for that. The other books are favourites, books I’ve had for years, and they’ve been good background for my writing in general.

I wrote...

Finding Our Way

By Barbara L.B. Storey,

Book cover of Finding Our Way

What is my book about?

Two people stranded in the middle of nowhere for an entire weekend, with no way to call for help. How can such a thing happen in the 21st century? But it does, giving Becca and Jon the chance to let someone into their carefully guarded lives... to fall in love. As utterly different as they are, a stroke of fate takes Becca and John through the highest and lowest points of an improbable love story that neither of them could have foreseen.

The books I picked & why

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Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations

By Rainer Maria Rilke, John J.L. Mood (translator),

Book cover of Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations

Why this book?

Rilke has been my favourite poet since I was in my 20s—the depth of emotion and the lack of sentiment is what attracts me to his work. In his mind, love is a very serious thing, as the title suggests. No hearts and roses—just the truth about human emotions. I use one of the poems (“The Seven Phallic Poems, IV”) in this book in my book—Jon reads it to Becca at a very intimate moment. I believe Rilke’s work in this book was my introduction to erotic poetry.

Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing

By Coleman Barks,

Book cover of Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing

Why this book?

I discovered Rumi’s work several years ago, and I like it because there is a spiritual or philosophical tone to everything he writes. When he speaks of love, it’s with a reverence or awe of the power of love. Nothing graphic, nothing explicitjust the beating heart of what love means and how it affects us emotionally. Chivalry and adoration rather than passion and breathlessness. My favourite poem in this book: “Some Kiss We Want.”

The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English

By Phillis Levin,

Book cover of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English

Why this book?

I have always had old-fashioned tastes when it comes to poetry, and sonnets in particular are a form I have been attracted to. This anthology has the best sonnets from Chaucer to contemporary poets, a real education in the form, and one of my favourites here is by e.e. cummings, titled “I like my body when it is with your body.”

Revel: A Triple Shot of Café Poems

By Carla Coles,

Book cover of Revel: A Triple Shot of Café Poems

Why this book?

This book is by a friend of mine, so holds a special place in my heart, because she’s so good. I also helped edit and format her book. She’s an artist and an author and her poems are mostly written in a coffee shop called Revel. They’re short, with deep and true images of everyday lifelove, coffee, and everything in betweenas seen by an artist.

Collected Poems, 1930-1993

By May Sarton,

Book cover of Collected Poems, 1930-1993

Why this book?

After Rilke, May Sarton is my favourite poet. I love her because her work is about the meanings of everyday things. She sees life through the eyes of an introvert, which I identify with completely, and she is able to bring out aspects of simple things that others miss. Her thoughts on love range from people in love“Lovers at the Zoo”to the intense grief at the loss of a pet “Death and the Turtle.”

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in poetry, flowers, and Rumi?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about poetry, flowers, and Rumi.

Poetry Explore 204 books about poetry
Flowers Explore 24 books about flowers
Rumi Explore 9 books about Rumi

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Let Us Dance! The Stumble And Whirl With The Beloved, How to Grow Your Own Poem, and Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei if you like this list.